My attention was drawn recently to an aspect of God’s relationship with mankind that I had previously not thought much of. It began with a question: what is our primary role in the interplay between God and mankind? Are we slaves, called only to do the bidding of our master? Are we given a goal or quota that we are somehow expected to meet over the course of our life? Is there really anything required of us at all?
Perhaps in some way, the answer to each of these is “yes”, at least to a certain degree; and maybe there are several answers to the initial question. My reflection has led me to a passage in Psalms, in which God speaks directly to us through Asaph.
In this passage God rebukes the Israelite people for their sacrifices, saying, “I will not accept a bull from your house, or goats from your folds. For every wild animal of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills. I know all the birds of the air, and all that moves in the field is mine. If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for the world and all that is in it is mine. Do I eat the flesh of bulls, or drink the blood of goats?” (Psalm 50)
God simultaneously affirms His own sovereignty, and pleads with the Israelites to understand the important point He’s making: When we seek reconciliation through offering things to God, we misunderstand what it truly means to walk with Him. There is no possession we can sacrifice, no unhealthy relationship we can flee, and no gift or talent we can use for Him that has not already come from Him (Look at Philippians 4:13, James 1:17, Matthew 6:30-33, Ephesians 3:20, etc.). At best, we’re just re-gifting our blessings back to Him.
So what then is our role? There’s nothing we can say, do, or give God that He doesn’t already have, and the relationship quickly becomes one-sided. This makes us parasites, living on stolen time. The prophet Micah gives us some clues to the answer in chapter 6 verse 8, but Asaph’s account gives us an even clearer picture of our true role.
“Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving,
and pay your vows to the Most High.
Call on me in the day of trouble;
I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.” Psalm 50:14-15
We are called by God to surrender control over to him. Surely we’re all too familiar with trouble; it runs rampant in our fallen world. God’s expectation is simply that we would call on Him when we’re in trouble, and wait for Him to deliver us. There is no potential conveyed in this statement, God says “I will deliver you”. All that is left is that the glory be ultimately returned to Him.
The kingdom of God is not a club that requires dues to be paid monthly. If God required payment from us we’d surly be damned. The cost of our salvation was infinitely more than we could ever fathom; thankfully, it’s been covered—don’t try to pay God back—trust Him to deliver you, and wait eagerly to give Him all of the glory when He does. This is the foundation of Biblical faith, and what I believe to be our primary role in a relationship with God.
*A brief note about sanctification and material possession. I wholeheartedly believe and affirm everything that I’ve written here. However, there are plenty of clarifications to be made in this. Christians should not read this as a claim that following Jesus has no cost. It is intrinsically sacrificial, in that we must flee sin and all its devices. I hope to communicate primarily that there is not a debt incurred by accepting justification, and that we could not pay these debts back were we asked to. More often than not it is in the best interest of our faith to sacrifice possessions, flee unhealthy relationships, and use our gifts and talents for Him. Our primary goal is to abandon sinfulness in exchange for Godliness, not to keep all of our stuff. Ultimately, this post is written as a message of hope, not a theological imperative on the relationship of faith, works, and salvation.